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Monday, October 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Jim Allen’s Tri, tri again Part Four: Body, wallet incur blows for sake of triathlon


This is the fourth in a six-part series of stories titled “Tri, tri again,” chronicling the adventures of a 57-year-old sportswriter as he trains for his first triathlon. The investment mounts…

Buddy, can you spare a buck for some tri-pants?

You see, I’m doing a triathlon on May 30 out at Medical Lake and I’m way over budget. You want me to perform at my best, don’t you? Hey, I’m talking to you.

Silly me. I thought I could immerse myself in the world of triathlons without getting soaked.

My wife, Dannette, knew otherwise. As my self-appointed personal shopper and a triathlete herself, she was determined to get me across the finish line without pain or embarrassment – especially for her.

The first mandate: “Dump the old tennis shoes,” she ordered.

Now I’m the proud owner of a pair of bright green Newtons, complete with inserts. I’m $239 poorer, but my running experience is infinitely richer because I no longer need to stop every half-mile, pretending to tie my shoelaces while I catch my breath.

Thank you, dear. Thanks, too, honey, for the pool buoy ($19 plus tax), the flippers ($29), the functional-yet-slightly-sexy Speedos ($39) and the membership in Team Blaze – all of which are helping keep my body and spirit afloat.

There was one gift to myself: Armadillo tires for my bike, the result of a nightmare in which my athletic dreams are punctured by a gang of drunken frat boys who dump broken beer bottles along the bicycle course I’ll be riding.

Hey, peace of mind isn’t cheap.

Then again, neither is the sport of triathlon. According to surveys, the average triathlete has a household income of $126,000, a garage full of high-end bicycles and a competitive drive that has turned an old adage upside-down.

For them, money is time. By spending a few thousand dollars more, they can save seconds, even minutes at the finish line.

I get the concept: You have to pay to play. Heck, I didn’t become captain of my high school chess team without buying a few books, and I didn’t get to level 20 in “Game of War: Fire Age” without turning a few real dollars into virtual fame and fortune.

But when it comes to my first sprint triathlon, I’m OK with merely getting to the finish line. With that in mind, I drew the line at buying a new bike. My 4-year-old Trek street bike will be a drag, but not on my budget.

The last big-ticket item was a wetsuit. Not just any wetsuit, but a triathlon wetsuit, which you wear over your tri-suit. It’s has less material than your typical diving wetsuit, but costs twice as much. Go figure.

For several weeks, I’d been looking, for the right fit, the right price. Then I found it last week, online.

What followed was your typical, awkward Craigslist transaction.

I agreed to meet the seller in Airway Heights, at a truck stop, no less. I had to try it on for size, so we walked to the men’s room. He handed me the wetsuit and I sneaked into a stall.

Triumphantly, I emerged from the stall wearing nothing but a form-fitting black rubber suit. I looked like an unmasked Batman who’s a couple of decades past his prime.

Two customers looked up. One exclaimed, “What the heck,” as I avoided eye contact. Seconds later, I handed over the money, transitioned back into my street clothes and dashed out of the truck stop.

I’ve now dropped about $535 – already above my self-imposed ceiling of $500. And I’m not done.

Two months ago, after I bought the above-mentioned running shoes, the clerk – a triathlete herself – asked whether I needed tri-pants.

“No, I don’t need to try on any pants,” I said.

She smiled and showed me something that looked like a cross between Speedos and bicycle pants.

“You really need these,” she assured me.

I assured her that I didn’t have $39 to pay for them. My eyes glazed and I gave a polite excuse about returning to work to earn some more money – for tri-pants.

Buddy, can you spare a buck?

Coming up: part five, the home stretch

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